In my estimation neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton deserves to be president of the United States. Judged on character and behavior – matters such as morality, truth, and personal integrity – they both fail. I think one is worse than the other, but they both fail. Quite simply, their candidacies reflect the low tide of contemporary American politics. And it surely says something about us as a nation that these two – for the moment, at least – look to be our candidates. Neither deserves such a high office.

That raises another question: What kind of president does America deserve?

Well, I’ll leave that discussion for another time, but perhaps this question will remind us of where we live. I have often been surprised that so many Christians are surprised when the world behaves like the world. It seems many are still under the delusion of a “Christian America” and are in need of a reality check – if ever there was such a time, it certainly isn’t now.

Given this reality it seems to me that we could well adjust our political expectations accordingly. The high ideals of character and conduct that we prize and that we insist on in the church characterize the world in ever-decreasing measure. So then, should we now recuse ourselves from the political process altogether because it has crossed some line? Might we be dirtied by voting either way?

I don’t think so.

Relatively few Christians throughout history were given opportunity to influence government. We have that opportunity, and unless we would imagine that we live in a genuine Christendom there is strong likelihood that our votes, necessarily, will often be cast – according to conscience – for the lesser of two evils, for the candidate who is “not as bad” as the other. That is just the reality. We fully agree with the founding fathers that character matters, and so the reality is – given that it is “the world” we are talking about, not the church – we are often left to vote not so much for but against a given candidate whom we perceive to be “worse.” We cast our vote for the one who is “not as bad” both in terms of personal character and of public / political policy. This is just the reality.

Some Christians, attempting to vote “conscience,” refuse to vote for either of the two real candidates and instead vote for third party or perhaps write-in another candidate. Some simply refuse to vote altogether. And both will sometimes caution the rest of us that God “sees your vote,” that Christians cannot justify supporting this or that “evil” candidate. But of course that cuts both ways. Surrendering our influence altogether – or voting third party, which in reality amounts to the same thing – leaves the “worst” candidate with less opposition … and God sees that too. Our refusal to vote for the one ipso facto helps the other, and while we may feel good that we have “not endorsed a sinner,” it is also true that we have failed to use our influence to prevent the worse candidate from taking the office.

The world will always behave like the world, and the church should not be surprised by it. So long as we have influence it seems to me we would do well to use it in the best “preserving” way possible. And so in a given election we may be left, in order to slow the decline, to choose between two evils. This shouldn’t surprise us.

I realize that this opinion goes against some friends who have written otherwise, but for my part I will vote in this election against what I perceive to be the worse of two poor candidates, and for the one whose political agenda is not as evil as the other.

For just one example, we have one candidate who is very outspoken in support of killing of not-yet-born babies. That is a gruesome practice and an awful blight on our society, and I can’t imagine not opposing it. The other candidate at least says he would be more restrictive. That, it seems to me, leaves me with little choice. And we could say the same regarding freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other important matters. I will not throw my vote away. I will use it in “support” of the lesser of two poor candidates.

I do understand and even sympathize with those who for conscience’ sake refuse to vote or otherwise throw it away. But I think it is mistaken. I don’t think it adequately recognizes the implications of the fact that we live in – as the apostle Paul calls it – “this present evil world.” I think it wiser – for conscience’ sake – to do what I can to slow the rate of decline as far as I am able.

And so, in the words of a dear young lady in our church, I will “just hold my nose and vote.”

Fred Zaspel (Ph.D., Free University of Amsterdam) is pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also adjunct professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, and is the executive editor of Books At a Glance. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary  andWarfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel.

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41 Comments

  • Definitely a discussion we need to have, and obviously this is a matter of conscience; let’s try to have our consciences as fully informed as possible. I would have agreed with you a few months ago but have changed to #nevertrump, calculating that the overall harm a DT candidacy (even if he wins) will do more harm than good and especially if conservatives support him. The following represents my current thinking: http://legalinsurrection.com/2016/05/conservative-reaction-to-the-trumpublican-party/#more

  • Another point – if it’s true that only several hundred delegates are actually in favor of Trump, I would encourage a rebellion to deny him the nomination. Yes it’s “against the rules” (although some are arguing it’s not actually) but rules aren’t even laws and the outcome if DT is the nominee is guaranteed disaster. Ted is probably too damaged to become the nominee in that way, I’d favor Scott Walker or Rick Perry to at least minimize total republican wipeout in November, which is what we are likely headed for. Main thing, beg God for mercy!

    • John, Trump supporters are like your third cousin once removed that you have to see every few years at a family reunion whose “career” is working at Home Depot, WalMart, or some other white trash, blue collar job. It’s scary to see the number of people who support him, although it’s just a bunch of rednecks who do. I’m not worried about it yet because I think saner heads will prevail and block the nomination. What it scary is that he got this close!

    • Ted Cruz was born in Canada. He did not become a U.S. citizen until after he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

      When the “birthers” were focusing on Obama, it was not about who his mother was. It was about where he was born.

      When John McCain decided to run for president, a hearing was held on his place of birth. The overall focus was not on his mother. It was the fact that he was born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone, which was determined to be U.S. property.

      It my understanding that the mother of Ted Cruz could have had him declared a U.S. citizen after his birth in Canada by filling out the proper paperwork.
      However, as of yet no such evidence has been presented.

      Ted Cruz will never be eligible to be president of the United States, based on the evidence of his citizenship presented as of this date.

  • Many evangelicals did not vote or voted third party in the last two general elections and we ended up with 2 terms of Obama from which the country may never recover, while the loss of freedom and persecution of Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere has been put on the fast-track. Can a Christian’s conscience countenance supporting the election of Hillary Clinton, who is openly and strongly aligned with every leftist and anti-Christian group imaginable, who will carry on this legacy of destruction?

    Voting always entails the lesser of two evils, while our scruples should also include the net effect of our actions, which in the case of those refusing to vote for Trump will include putting Hillary Clinton in the Whitehouse. Can your conscience support that?

  • I appreciate your honesty. At least you admit that you choose to vote for evil. Your reasoning does not change my mind.

  • Your ability to speak your mind, along with the ability of churches to proclaim truth, oppose abortion, support Christians suffering persecution and even genocide, as well as support and protection of our military, will all be compromised at an increasing rate, if not destroyed, under an H. Clinton presidency. Some rather significant evil to consider there, I think. And if my reasoning does not change your mind, perhaps the evil fruit of continued destruction of lives and liberties might influence you in some way? I notice you use a picture of a soldier as your logo, perhaps you could also think of them? The way our elections work, no choice is still a choice, with consequences of greater or less evil. Who, then, will be voting for more evil?

  • I think it is unfortunate that you equate voting third party with not voting. You claim that voting for a third party is “surrendering our influence all together.” Not voting certainly is a surrender. And it is a poor choice for Christians, I think. But third party voting is not the same.

    You are using the language of the “lesser of two evils.” I get that. But I would assume that if either of the two candidates were “evil enough” you would vote for a third party. At some point, doesn’t everyone have a limit? Doesn’t everyone have a line to draw? At some point, if evil is SO evil on both sides, we have to cast our vote elsewhere. Don’t we? Isn’t that true of everyone?

    You use abortion as an illustration. Fine. Let’s take as a future hypothetical: one candidate advocates for full-term abortions on demand and one candidate advocates for full-term abortions except for cases of gender selection. And a third party candidate is pro-life. Are you honestly comfortable voting for the second candidate only in order to prevent the first candidate from winning? Even if you were, you would certainly understand the person who would vote for the third candidate, no?

    So the debate here – as I see it – isn’t as much about whether to vote for the lesser of two evils or not. The debate is about how evil a candidate/system/party can be and still retain support. The debate is about WHEN/WHERE to draw the line before we vote elsewhere, not IF we draw it.

  • I think you have it right regarding Clinton-she is degenerate. You are mistaken regarding Trump. He is not an indicator of moral degeneracy in Amerca. He is the opposite: he is the moral response to the rank deceit and real moral degeneration of the national Republican Party-especially the party members in Washington, D.C. They will accept anything from Obama and the Democrats because they actually agree with them. Trunp’s victory, over standard, run of the mill (I don’t include Dr. Carson in this group), Republican politicians in the primaries, is the proof that Americans have tired of the fraud and lies that are destroying the United States-and that includes Ted Cruz and his attempted flim-flam with Kasich to derail Trump. Trump is the moral choice.

    • Yes! Indeed you are right!!! Trump is the only one a Christian can vote for! He will not take us down to an abyss as Clinton will, he is a decent and honest man who loves his country! A vote for Hillary is a vote against America and for unleashing the forces of Hell! May God Deliver Us!!!

  • Here’s the problem with this article and with so many “Trump is better than Hillary” arguments: HE ISN’T. In fact, the only difference you could even think of between him and Hillary is the abortion issue, and even on that you are wrong – Trump actually tried to argue in favor of Planned Parenthood. http://www.lifenews.com/2016/03/01/donald-trump-praises-planned-parenthood-again-attacks-so-called-conservatives-who-disagree/ I guarantee you that he does not care about abortion and that he will not pursue any significant pro life policies. Why is it that somehow Hillary is hated for her immorality and corruption but Trump isn’t? The man has played footsie with blatant racists, bragged about his numerous sexcapades, joked about incest, and mocked the disabled. How in the name of everything that is holy can you even pretend like he is a better option than Hillary? This sort of hypocrisy absolutely kills me, especially from one professing Christ.

    • Totally agree, although I choose to believe (or at least hope) the author and those like him are not speaking out of hypocrisy, but out of ignorance.

    • You are so wrong! Trump loves America and will do all he can to help her, Hillary will takes all the way down till we are a third rate country bleeding us dry all the way! She is evil and worships at the altar of baby killing. There is nothing she won’t do including taking our religious rights away and instituting death camps for those who refuse to bow to her!

  • These leftist hit pieces are getting boring. The self-righteousness of these articles is simply stunning. The fact that the comments sections are full of people who are naive enough to agree with these articles is just sad. Trump is far from perfect, but he is the closest thing we have to anyone with a hint of respect for the republic, the Constitution and typical Judeo-Christian values. On the other hand, it’s refreshing that these hit pieces show more and more the desperation of the crony-capitalist, corrupt political class crowd who bow in obeisance to FOX , Beck and whatever they are told to think by them.

    I have no idea who this author is, so this is nothing personal. I will give him the credit that he is not as corrupt as he appears and is simply naive and unable to think outside of the FOX box. Thankfully, America is waking up and is starting to break free from this mold.

    • I doubt that Trump has even read the Constitution, so how can he support it? I agree with Russel Moore’s take on this, that a Christian cannot vote for evil. (https://t.co/IukU9H3TH3). A third-party vote sends a message and is a protest vote. Last I read, we have the freedom to vote our conscience, and our system is not a two-party system; there are other options. God does see how we vote, and we will be held accountable. We are not to give approval to those who practice evil (Romans 1:28-32).

      • And you’ll be held accountable for aiding Hillary’s empowerment. It is a two-party system, practically speaking. A third or other party has no chance, quit pretending. Aid Hillary if you will but you will answer for it.

  • Excellent! Thank you Dr. Zaspels! There is so much vitriol and pigeon-holing going on from so many Christians. What some fail to forget is that no candidate is *pure*, and that every candidate is a *sinner*. Even Cruz got down in the mud and got into the name-calling. Having been involved with the RNC since my College Republican years very early on I always acknowledged this – we must stem the tide of *evil policies* in government, even though there will always be *evil men* in government. I don’t remember the last time we had a real Christian for President, but that didn’t help our country either. How easily people forget.

  • I have no clue if Trump is real or not; I can only go by what he is portraying himself as. In my opinion, Trump appears to far outclass all the others in the things that other poster mentioned such as standing up for values, the constitution, etc. Maybe we’ll all be hoodwinked and he is just a plant. But even if he is, who cares? There’s no better candidate out there, not even close. If he is for real, Trump is probably one of the best presidential candidates I can recall in my lifetime, and I’m not a young person.

    It’s refreshing to see that the author of this article is at least going to vote the right way, but it’s sad to see that it is a hit piece at the same time. If Trump does end up being a plant and a fraud, then I would agree with this article’s premise. But by all appearances (and that’s all I can go by, instead of my guesses at what a candidate’s true motives may be), Trump is a candidate that anyone who values morality and freedom should excitedly be in favor of.

  • Your guy Trump is endorsed publicly by members of the KKK. Trump does not refute these endorsements. When did being a disciple of Jesus mean that one has to support American right wing politics? I am an evangelical Christian who despises those very politics that hurt so many of the least of these. A Christian voting for Trump? The guy who says he wants demonstrators at his rallies taken out on a stretcher? Unbeliveable.

    • Dan, I agree with you completely. Not only racists, but it’s mainly blue-collar, white, heterosexual, non-college educated males who support Trump. Studies have proven that educated people are not in support of him. I don’t think any of us would want to be associated with KKK members or uneducated rednecks. Trump is like the WalMart, white trash of the political world. I would be embarrassed to have anything to do with that crowd.

  • Just remember God used a Godless king Darius to rebuild the temple! At least Donald Trump has not said he would put coal miners out of work . He doesn’t sanction obortions . And a least you have heard him say he believes in the Bible. He was not my choice but the American people have spoken. He couldn’t be any worse tha Obama or Hillary or maybe you want a socialist !every Christian should vote and they need to pray before they vote!im not sure but what the anti Christ might be ready to appear!

  • Mr. Briggs, I find it sad that you just repeat mindless, pointless, ridiculous memes that the controlled media have put out there in order to discredit him. Trump is far from perfect and has lots of problematic issues, such as his past support of leftist causes. I can only hope he has seen the light and has gained some wisdom and common sense and is moving away from past views into more sane philosophies. But to try to make an argument against someone based on these ridiculous memes is silly. I know it’s now becoming an overly used statement that has lost it’s wittiness by now, but these kinds of media manipulations are aimed at “low information voters.” I would like to think you could at least argue on some points that have substance instead of these.

    Although, I do agree with you that it doesn’t seem fair or kind to vote in Democrats: ” I am an evangelical Christian who despises those very politics that hurt so many of the least of these. ” Socialist policies of the left have destroyed Detroit and Socialism only works for awhile before it destroys a nation. Leftist policies are unkind to the poor. And to be fair, crony capitalism, which is not true free market capitalism, can also hurt the poor and in the long run is not much better.

  • The candidate should be a secondary consideration.

    An informed and critically thinking Christian should be able to discern which political party has been growing demonstrably in fervor with its animosity and unfiltered disdain for Christian values, organizations, and rights.

    If were just about separation of church and state I could see their attacks as being somewhat principled, however, it seems specifically targeted at Christianity. They clamor for the rights and promotion of Islam and atheism while trying to paint Christianity as bigoted, ignorant, and irrelevant. Look at any significant constitutional legal action against a Christian organization or tenet and invariably it will have the support of (if not originated by) members of a single political party.

    Politics is literally the struggle for power. It is political parties which yield and the true power in this country. Why would Christians empower a political party that despises Christianity and its values? Why would any thoughtful Christian support a party that seeks to criminalize Christian sentiments and practice?

    No one person can destroy America alone, but a political party is certainly capable. Just ask a Russian or German historian…

    I suggest that Christians not get so caught up in the worthiness (or lack thereof) of an individual. There is ample Biblical support for this. The word worthiness shares a common root word with worship, so take that for what it’s worth. The struggle for political power over this country is far more consequential and determinant.

  • http://thepedestrianchristian.blogspot.com/2016/05/christians-bewitched-by-their-own.html

    My I suggest these ten, of many reasons, why while it may not be an ideal situation, it is not a nose holder either, necessarily and certainly a clear choice.

    1. Donald Trump is a nationalist and capitalist, both ideologically and in practice. Hillary is a socialist and internationalist, both in ideology and practice. That is a major chasm.

    2. SCOTUS now has two radical left judges and with Scalia gone, the balance of power to the radical left will be a certainty with Hillary. But with Trump, he will doubtless retain the balance to the right. The decades long damage that a radical left SCOTUS would do will far out live Hillary or Trump and will be passed on to your children.

    3. Trump will be a Republican President working with a Republican congress. All of the unlawful executive orders will be addressed and removed by Trump, not Hillary.

    4. Trump wants to protect Christian expression, Hillary is clear she will continue Obama’s position of shaming, punishing and oppressing Christian expression.

    5. Obamacare is crushing people. It will be removed and replaced with a GOP plan (see Heritage Foundation) plan under Trump. Under Hillary it will continue its relentless assault on families, healthcare and the economy.

    6. The U.S. Attorney General’s office will have integrity restored and governmental and civilian offenders prosecuted under Trump. You will get answers to the IRS scandals and beyond but not under Hillary.

    7. Illegal immigration will aggressively be addressed under Trump, not Hillary who is an internationalist. Radicals pouring through will be stopped, a wall built and real border control established.

    8. Our military strength and dignity will certainly be restored under Trump, he is a super-patriot and nationalist but not under Hillary, it will continue in its demoralized pc path.

    9. Trump plans to demand more from our allies. Europe has built their economies on our backs since WW2. We have invested in protecting the world while few of them have been forced to spend their money on a military defense that could protect them for more than a week. They love socialism at our expense, it is time they pay for the luxury of their socialism with its alleged free healthcare and education and not me and you with our tax money. Trump wants to start making them accountable. Hillary? She has no vision other than managing our downgrade day-to-day.

    10. Trump wins and loves this country with no apology, Hillary is Obama, apologizing for our greatness.

  • I have no clue where that previous poster is coming from or why he’s bringing up all of these points that are minor issues. The main reason we don’t like Trump and should be against him is because he is rude to gays and lesbians, as seen with the Rosie O’Donnell incident. He is also rude to women, as we have seen with the Megan Kelly fiasco. Megan Kelly is a fine, outstanding young woman and how dare anyone be rude to her or be difficult with her?! And as others have said, he’s also endorsed by the KKK.

    Those are the big three issues with Trump. Please save your facile lists for other blogs, as they don’t even begin to address the seriousness of the issues.

  • I don’t know if that post was a parody or not, AG. I sure hope it was! But what is really sad is that, in all seriousness, whether that poster was real or not, there are people who actually believe that for real!

  • I do find it odd that so many are speaking out in this comment section about the political/moral ramifications of this presidential election cycle without referencing the Bible or declaring how both candidates appear to be in need of the Gospel (especially when one considers the website in which the article is included).

    I personally disagree with Dr. Zaspel’s conclusions, but I do believe that Christians must first consider the scriptures when deciding how to handle elections, no matter matter who is being considered. Romans 14 provides insight when Paul reminds us that “one person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (v. 5). We should be cautious when binding the conscience of fellow believers. Let each of us vote according to our own convictions and encourage others to do the same.

    We must also remember that the entire New Testament was written in a time when the ruling authorities were pagans and in open aggression towards the Church. But Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

    May we praise God for our ability to influence our government through voting, but may we also be reminded that we, as Christians, must “…be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1-2). We need to vote, but we also must remember that God is in ultimate control of all things. Let us take comfort in that truth in order that we may better fulfill the great commission and declare the Gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

  • Thank you Fred for a very thoughtful, honest, and spot on post. I agree 100%. I believe voting for a 3rd party candidate does nothing but ease one’s conscience. Yet, they have every right to do that and we should never call their love for America or love for the truth into question. And likewise we have every right to vote for Trump without them calling our love for America and the truth of the Gospel into question either. Every believer has a right to private judgment. We all should read Romans 14 again.

    What I hate to see is Christian leaders use their influence to threaten believers with eternal damnation or question their Christianity if they vote for Trump. Just as they have every right to NOT vote for Trump, every believer has a right TO vote for Trump over Hillary.

    Thanks for not lambasting either side but speaking the truth in love.

    Steve

  • Alas, we do not have the option of voting for the “Lesser” of two evils. They are both simply evil but on different spectrum’s.

    How can you vote for someone who you admittedly said, “doesn’t deserve the office”? Isn’t that disrespecting the office?

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